Friday, August 31, 2012

Another Appointment With the Best Farrier in the World

I got up at the crack of dawn to get ready for the horses' farrier appointment.  It had been 8 weeks since their last barefoot trim.  Lostine had been limping around for a few weeks, and Bombay started limping the day before.  I'd seen all the horses stubbing their toes, stumbling and limping.  I told him we either have to cut the toes shorter so they can roll over them better or trim more often.

He assessed each horse individually, and I learned more in one and a half hours from him than I have from years of seeing various vets and farriers.  Lostine's hoof walls are much thinner and her sole is much softer than that of the other horses, so her feet are tender.  After answering a variety of questions, he determined that part of this underdevelopment is genetics and part of it is the fact that she stands around in one stall staring at the haystack all day.  I need to get her feet moving to toughen them up.

We also discovered that if he pulled her legs out to the side, she pinned her ears back and struggled -- something she's never done before.  She usually relaxes through her pedicures.  He then stretched her front legs by pulling them straight forward and she moaned and let out a big sigh, like she was feeling relief.  So, she has been developing arthritis in her knees and hocks this past year and that is hurting her as well.  That means I have to start her on msm glucosamine chondroitin supplements.  He said most people automatically start horses on them once they turn 20 to prevent joint problems.  You can treat it more effectively if your prevent it rather than waiting until the horse has a problem.

He couldn't trim her toes much shorter because he has to keep the hoof wall thickness consistent all the way around, and her side walls are already so thin that they were chipping off.  So, we scheduled the next trim for 7 weeks to see if that helps.  If not, we'll bump it up to 6 weeks.  He said that in the winter when I'm riding them he can see them less often because the ground naturally grinds the hooves down with all that movement.  When the horses were younger they were so active that they ground down their own hooves and they really didn't need trims more than 10 to 12 weeks.  Things are different now with the hot summers keeping them standing around in the barn for months on end.

Bombay has very thick hoof walls and a hard sole, along with excellent conformation, so he has the strongest hooves of all the horses and is a prime candidate for trail riding in the rocky areas.  He may have been limping because the frog was getting hard and lumpy, but he seems fine now.  There's no thrush or abscess.  The farrier said that it's rare for horses to get thrush around here because the ground doesn't stay moist for long.  As long as horse owners clean up the manure and pick out the hooves every now and then, the horses should be okay.

Gabbrielle also had thick hoof walls and a tough sole, but she had poor conformation.  She walks on the insides of her front hooves, causing flare to the outside, and her hind legs are worse because she keeps her legs underneath her and walks on her heels as well as the inside of the hooves.  She's cow-hocked.  He said that traditional farriers don't take the way the horse walks into consideration when they trim.  Their goal is to make the hooves even and cosmetically correct all the way around, believing that the horse will change the way it walks to adapt to the even hooves.  His goal as a barefoot trimmer is to trim to the horse's stride to keep it functional.  If a horse walks on each of its four feet differently, the horse will have each hoof trimmed differently, coming out with a different appearance for each hoof.

It sounds funky, but ever since this barefoot trimmer has been working with her, I haven't seen Gabbrielle limp once.  You may recall that back in Nevada she was lame for years, and just when it seemed to be clearing up, I sent her off to a trainer, and the mare came up totally lame.  The trainer thought she was faking it to get out of work, so she pushed her through it, and got her from hopping on three legs to trotting and cantering smoothly on all four legs within a matter of minutes.  I did find it odd that she walked perfectly normal from the barn to the arena, and only pulled up one leg when mounted.  The trainer only called it a psychological problem after examining Gabbielle's shoulder, leg and hoof and finding nothing.  Of all the horses, she seems to be the most comfortable walking on rocks around here.

You know those flaps of frog that grow out and trip up your horses?  I used to cut those off with a hoof knife in Nevada, but you can't do that here in Arizona.  Everything gets so hard here that you have to nip those babies off.

The horses did each have their own moments of misbehavior.  I always hope they won't embarrass me.  It's kind of like taking your kids on an airplane or to a restaurant.  You hope the culmination of all your years of raising them pay off in important situations.

I had forgotten that I brought a bag of peppermints out in case I needed to bribe a horse, and Bombay spotted them.  He got restless and kept swinging his butt back and forth to try to get around me to the bag.  He got impatient each time the farrier stopped trimming to talk.  He gives little educational lectures between trimming hooves and Bombay just wanted his trim over with so that he could have his peppermints.

Lostine lifted her tail and pooped on the farrier while he was nipping her hind hoof.  She nailed him in the head and soiled his shirt.  We had to move to another stall that didn't have poop in it.  That was definitely embarrassing.  He said, "Well, that's not the first nor last time that's ever happened."

Gabbrielle was the one who really took me by surprise.  While working on Bombay, Gabbrielle came into the stall to sniff the farrier's tool kit.  I said, "Gabbrielle, you behave.  Don't make me close the gate."

She looked at me a minute and then backed out of the stall and I said, "Good girl."

The farrier laughed.  I said, "In some ways, she's my best behaved horse and she's the youngest.  She really tries to understand what I am asking."

He said, "Well, based on that interaction right there I'd say she understands English."

Then later when he was trimming Gabbrielle, he stopped to talk to me about snakes.  He was teaching me that most rattlesnake bites affect the bloodstream, but the Mojave rattlers attack the nervous system and you can die within a few minutes of being bitten.  He said that most snakes will avoid horse paddocks once they learn that horses are in them, because they don't want to get stepped on.

Anyway, he was standing to Gabbrielle's side and I was standing at her head when she turned her head around and snorted at a red bandana that was draped over the farrier's tool kit.  I figured she'd realize that it wouldn't hurt her and settle down.  I had just been throwing a blanket over her head the other day and that didn't bother her.

Amazingly, she cow kicked out to the side with such speed and force right at the bandana, but not touching it.  It was like a warning kick, but she had no intention of actually nailing the thing in case it would bite back.  I pulled her head around to get her butt away from the tool box and farrier.  He carried the bandana over to her head and let her sniff it, and then he hung it on the fence by her head and resumed trimming.  I just love this guy.  He's so confident that every action he takes with horses is correct, and I find that it usually is.  My old farrier would have removed the offending item and hid it where the horse couldn't see it.

My new farrier says that we are all horse trainers because each time we interact with our horses we are either training them in a good way or a bad way, and it is our job to observe and figure out how we should behave in order to get the desired behavior out of our horses.  I was telling him that I still need to train my horses to walk through and over the gates to the state land before I can start trail riding.

He warned me that he's seen people fight with their horses at those gates, and then the horse rears up and impales itself on the posts.  He advised that I spend some time in my fenced-in arena sending the horses through items from behind with a long rope or whip, and move the obstacles closer and closer together until the horse is comfortable passing between them and understand the cue to send them forward.  Then I can put an obstacle on the ground for them to step over while passing between the posts.  Once they master that, I can work on it from horseback and then take them to the state land gates.

I love it that I can get horse training advice from my farrier.  He used to be a horse trainer.  My old farrier was always asking me for horse training advice when he was having trouble with his horses.  I told him he probably knows more than I do.  Now that I've got a goal and some groundwork exercises to do I'm getting excited for summer to end so we can get started in safer temperatures.


Anonymous said...

How old are your horses? I did enjoy this posts, this man seems so relaxed and calm with the horses and I think he knows what he is doing. Glad you found him, that's a plus for you. Ellie k

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Ellie K - Lostine is 24, Bombay is 14, and Gabbrielle is 7.

Stacey said...

Glad to see you found a great farrier! I LOVE the equine podiatrist we are using here. Welcome to desert feet. The dryness will turn them to iron :) My farrier in NM sometimes had me make a mud puddle for Klein to stand in for a while before trims to soften them just a bit. She was on 5 week trims there and 4 week trims here.

Is it starting to cool off there at all yet?

Reddunappy said...

Love it when you find a good farrier!!! They are worth every penny!! Glad you found one!!

fernvalley01 said...

This guy sounds like a real keeper!!!

Paint Girl said...

Yep, definitely a keeper! So happy you found someone that is good, in more ways then one!!

Laura said...

that farrier sounds like a keeper! Glad the ponies all got their feet trimmed.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Sounds like a great farrier. It's so nice to have a farrier that spends some time with you and never makes you feel like you and your horses are taking up his/her time.

Apache's feet are tough as iron and my farrier often asks me to soak her feet in water about an hour before he arrives to soften them up a little. He says he goes through rasps and other farrier tools like you wouldn't believe. lol!


aurora said...

What a great farrier, happy for you & your horses!

achieve1dream said...

Your new farrier sounds absolutely amazing!! I'm so happy you found him. Everything he's said sounds right on to me. Especially the part about trimming each hoof how they need to be trimmed instead of to some perfect standard or whatever. I wish all farrier would get that through their thick skulls! I'm so excited for you. :)

Oh and if Lostine's hooves haven't toughened up yet try salt water. Just put salt in a spray bottle, add water, shake it up and spray onto the bottoms of her hooves. It toughens them up fast and it's cheap. :D